NEW FAIRFIELD—Shortly after completing its perfect season with a win in the Class M championship, the New Fairfield boys lacrosse team hopped on the bus to Jonathan Law High School instead of heading home. There, the Rebels girls team was putting the finishing touches on its own state championship, a win in the Class S final.
Following the win, Athletic Director Mary Stolle brought together the players and coaches of both the boys and girls teams — under the leadership of Marty Morgan and Karen Nell — for a group photo. Team plaques, MVP trophies and medals for all highlighted the photo.
The Rebels had brought home all the gold.
“We’re just both so proud of our community,” said Nell “No other community was able to put that together and I think that’s a great reflection of our town. Marty commits unbelievable amounts of time for our boys and girls programs; it’s a labor of love for him and we always appreciate that.”
The scene was the punctuation of months of hard work for both sets of Rebels, who swept the SWC and state championships. The boys team finished with a perfect 22-0 record, while the girls went 20-3.
“It was great for these guys to get a championship,” Morgan said. “They worked their butts off and they’ve been playing for 10-plus years together, which is incredible. I knew going into the season we could win every game if we played like we could.”
YEARS IN THE MAKING
The bond of the boys team is something that doesn’t come around a small town too often. The Rebels roster featured 19 juniors, most of which had been playing with one another since kindergarten. Multiple Division I commits had circle time in the same preschool class.
“Having all our friends playing the same sport was key,” said defender Nick Alviti. “All my boys since kindergarten; we’ve played the sport every year since then and we were all there playing (in the championship).”
One of those — Sacred Heart commit John Morgan — happened to be the son of the founder of the high school team. Marty Morgan convinced many to try the sport at a young age, an endeavor that paid off early.
Years of bonding and friendship followed. Success too. Eighth grade was a particular highlight. New Fairfield toppled a team from Greenwich to win a state championship.
“Every year we would lose to Darien and this was the one year that we got past them,” John Morgan said. “And we played Greenwich, it came down to the wire and that was pretty close.”
The class moved up to high school, ready to write its own legacy. Many started as sophomores in 2017 as the Rebels won their first SWC title since 2010, two years after New Fairfield’s other undefeated season.
“We had more experience at the varsity level,” said Brett Tenaglia. “Our first year as freshmen was a little tough, but once we got everyone in our class playing on varsity we started to perform a lot better because we had a lot more chemistry.”
Ten years after the last Rebels team achieved perfection, it happened again. The Rebels dominated SWC competition in addition to routing Glastonbury during the regular season before cruising to a conference crown.
New Fairfield beat three straight SCC clubs to earn the Class M crown, though two of those came down to the final minute. The Rebels overcame a four-goal deficit to beat Guilford in the quarterfinal, then edged Hand 13-11 in the final.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tenaglia said. “It felt like a home game even though we were down in Norwalk. I remember looking at the stands and there was a little section of Hand parents, and everyone else was from New Fairfield. It motivated us.”
The honors poured in after completing the undefeated season. Alviti and James Leary were named All-American; seven players were named first team All-State. New Fairfield and Marty Morgan were named team and Coach of the Year, respectively.
“I think it’s awesome,” Alviti said. “To me, what stands out is the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year. Without coach Morgan I wouldn’t have gotten All-American or All-State. He’s the guy behind that, setting everything up and running everything along with the rest of the coaching staff.”
The Rebels will return all but one starter — senior Matt Carlucci — to next year’s squad. There they will carry a 22-game win streak and a desire to prove they belong in the same category as the top teams in the state. New Fairfield lost to Wilton and New Canaan in 2016.
“We’re definitely going to pursue that,” Marty Morgan said. “Darien is the team we always lost to; they were able to beat all the other towns in youth. We would love to play any of those schools.”
“I hope we play New Canaan or Darien, because people say we’re not that good or we don’t play that many good teams,” Tenaglia said. “But they don’t know how good we actually are.”
TWICE AS NICE
The girls lacrosse team also wrote its name into the history book, claiming its second straight Class S title to go along with a second SWC title.
It’s rare that a state title can be overshadowed, but what the Rebels did in winning their first conference crown since 2005 — and that was in Division II — turned out to be a massive exclamation point.
The Rebels exploded for 40 goals in two wins over Pomperaug (semifinals) and Barlow (final), two teams they lost to during the regular season. The return of Sydney Colesworthy aided that cause, but a reduction in mistakes fully unlocked New Fairfield’s attack.
“A lot of the times we threw the ball away; we were committing a lot of unforced errors during the season,” Nell said. “I think that was certainly something we improved on; earlier in the season we were depending on our defense and goalie.”
One of the smallest schools in the league, New Fairfield proved it could punch above its weight.
“I’m so happy that they won a league championship and a state championship,” said Morgan, who coaches girls at the youth level and whose daughter Bridget graduated in 2016. “The league title was just awesome; they were a great team. The way they just dominated the SWC playoffs, that was the best part to me.”
New Fairfield rode that momentum to a comfortable run through the Class S tournament. The fourth-seeded Rebels used a grinding defensive effort to hold off East Catholic in the final.
“It’s a huge accomplishment because we’re a small school,” Nell said. “A lot of the teams that were in (the SWC tournament) were Class L and M schools. It means we have a competitive league. To have lost to those teams earlier in the season and come back when it’s win or go home really shows commitment the girls had. They wanted to be better.”